A push to override drug decriminalisation laws in the ACT over concerns Canberra would host drug tourists has been shot down.
Shadow attorney-general Michaelia Cash on Thursday sought to negate the territory’s decriminalisation law with a private senator’s bill, but it was rejected by Labor and the Greens.
The national capital would become “the drug capital” and crime would increase with bikies moving in to meet demand when the laws come into effect at the end of the month, Senator Cash argued.
Small quantities of a range of drugs such as heroin, ice, cocaine, MDMA and psychedelics have been decriminalised, allowing police to issue a fine instead of putting users through the criminal justice system.
Senator Cash told the Senate people would travel down the Hume Highway “hoping to experience the ACT’s party lifestyle”.
This would lead to an increase in addiction, crime and overdoses, she said.
“As the (Australian Federal Police) deputy commissioner … has said, when police see someone doing a line of coke – and guess what, you can now do about 15 lines – historically they may have intervened, they’re probably not going to now.”
ACT Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson, who spearheaded the decriminalisation laws, said there was no evidence the reforms would lead to the “outlandish claims the Liberals are spouting about drug tourism”.
“If Liberal politicians poked their head out of Parliament House, they would see firsthand the amazing harm reduction work already underway in the ACT,” he told AAP.
“My advice to holidaymakers seeking to avoid unsociable elements when visiting Canberra is to avoid federal sitting weeks.”
Greens senator David Shoebridge reiterated the laws decriminalised use, while not legalising it.
“Instead of treating people who have addiction problems as criminals and putting them into jail – losing their job and their hope and their future and driving them down further pathways towards addiction – they will treat it as a health issue.”
ACT independent senator David Pocock said the shadow attorney-general’s push to overturn a law enacted by a democratically elected Legislative Assembly “can be seen no other way than trying to erode self-government in our territory”.
All sides of ACT politics have called on the federal coalition not to overrule its laws.
“It is a clear unmistakable breach of our territory rights,” he said, adding the coalition needed to respect the principles of democracy.
Drug policy should be the focus, he said, as he pointed to direct alcohol-related deaths rising year on year and legal pharmaceuticals accounting for the vast amount of opioid-induced deaths.
“There are clear issues across the nation when it comes to the supply of drugs and demand for drugs as well as issues with our systems to treat people with addictions and get them healthy,” Senator Pocock said.
The private senator’s bill was defeated 33 votes to 27.